Life After College Athletics

For students who have participated in college athletics, they have most likely been athletes all of there lives. I have personally seriously participated in sports since the age of 5, so at this point practice and training are just an accepted part of my every day schedule.

It is hard to think of a time where the after school activity wasn’t going to practice, and the same thing goes for college athletics. Whether its waking up early to go to conditioning, running from class to practice, or showing up sweaty and panting to class, our daily lives tend to revolve around our sport.

However, as an upperclassman, I have to recognize that this will not always be the case. In a short year and a half, I will be graduating college and will be forced to accept that my days as a collegiate athlete are over. From what I have observed, there seems to be three phases of exiting student athletic life.

Phase One: Excitement

As your athletic career comes to an end, most athletes tend to feels some sort of excitement. The thought of not having to wake up at 6 a.m. to run sprints, dedicate all of your weekends to matches, and have most evenings ruled by practice can sounds pretty appealing after all.

Phase Two: Emotional Realization

As your final season comes to a close, I think it finally hits you that this season of your life is over. Last spring season, the final match for our seniors was incredibly emotional for both players and coaches. It’s a difficult realization that this is your last time competing at a collegiate level.

Phase Three: The Great Unknown?

Life after graduation is different for all athletes. Some continue to find ways to play their sport at a competitive level, while others will take an extended break from the sport. However, no matter how you live your life after college athletics, one thing is certain. You will never forget all of the experiences, friends, and memories that you made throughout the four years of being a college athlete.

 

 

To Dress up, or not to Dress Up

In many cases, athletes are recognizable around college campuses by their appearance. And by appearance, I typically mean our almost refusal to wear anything other than athletic clothing.

It can be pretty hard to justify dressing up in street clothes when you know that in approximately three hours you’re going to have to change back into athletic apparel before you go to practice. However, there are the occasional days where there is no practice and the idea of wearing something other those favorite Nike shorts pops into your brain.

That thought process tends to go a bit as follows:

Thought 1: Let’s do this

When you first decide to venture out of the realm of athletic wear it can be an exciting moment. You wake up, eat breakfast, and decide to get ready for class. You look through your wardrobe and are excited by all of the many possibilities you have that don’t involve wearing a sweatshirt that represents your school team.

Thought 2: Is this really a good idea?

As you are looking for a good, regular option to wear, doubts will then start to creep into your mind. How long has it been since I’ve even worn jeans? Does this mean I need to wear a belt as well? Is it so necessary to dress like this when I can just go back to my comfortable athletic clothes? As the doubts begin to creep in, motivation to wear these clothe starts to slowly creep out.

Thought 3: On the other hand…

Once those thoughts of doubt creep in, they are pretty hard to expel. You start questioning the reason why you are doing all of this and come up without a good answer. After all of your planning, good intentions, and deliberation you finally come up with a decision. You stick to your favorite Nikes, comfy sweatshirt, and insanely comfortable running shoes. But hey, at least you showered, right?

Recovery Time

When someone participates in copious amounts of physical activity, there are often side effects that they must face. These include tiredness, sore muscles, and worst of all: injuries.

I recently had surgery on my left knee in order to remove a pain causing benign tumor. After the surgery, I had to sit on the sidelines for close to a month (which felt like closer to a year) before I could resume normal athletic activity again. Even though waiting around for my knee to heal was inconvenient at best and tortuous at worst, it demonstrated the importance of patience.

Most injured athletes are not very good at waiting around while their injury improves. However, if you do not allow the injury to heal properly, it can lead to many difficult complications down the line.

When in the recovery process, it is crucial to take the necessary time to heal, be dedicated to physical therapy process, and not rush into activity too quickly. After my surgery, all I wanted to do was jump back into practice right away. I held on to what my doctor had told me directly before my surgery: I would be back to full athletic activity in two weeks. Unfortunately my recovery time took a bit longer and after the two week time period I was still unable to be back on the tennis court.

At the point I finally began doing physical therapy exercises in hopes that it would speed up my recovery time. Luckily, the physical therapy was successful and in another two long weeks I was back on the court practicing.

I would say that almost every athlete and many non-athletes know what it is like to recovery from an injury. It is a slow and painful process, but it is also a process that is very much worth it in the long run.

It teaches the importance of patience, which is applicable to life as both a student athlete and as a working adult in whatever field you may be in. Since patience is unfortunately a virtue in most aspects of life, injury recovery can be a way to learn the value of patience in every day life. And in my opinion, what better way to learn patience other than being on the sidelines of a game?

Bus Rides

One of the simultaneously most loved and most hated aspects of being a student athlete are the team bus rides. They can last anywhere from 30 minutes to 6 plus hours and have the unique ability to bring a team together like almost no other activity can.

During my freshman year, bus rides were what allowed me to grow closer to the other girls on the team. My teammates and I were thrown together on a bus, and from that point on, we started to become closer friends. From playing Would You Rather, singing along to songs everybody somehow knows, and finding a way to get the entire bus to watch a movie, we got to know each other more as the season went by.

On the downside, bus rides made it near impossible to sleep or study for any upcoming exams you might have. If you didn’t get car sick, there was always a conversation going on that somehow managed to distract you from your study habits.

Additionally, if you are able to find space to sleep, it is not always that easy to take a nap. There is always that chance that your teammates will either try to play a prank on you or simply find a way to wake you up.

However, even the not always as nice parts of bus rides were never too much of a hassle to put up with. The way they brought the team together and created friendships among teammates outweighed all of the possible troubles.

For me, bus rides produced some of my favorite memories of away trips that I will never forget. They created lasting memories and I would not trade those experiences for anything (even the extra sleep that was lost on those trips).

Love What You Do

In one of my classes last week, we had a guest speaker who spoke regarding his successful professional career. He has had great success in the profession of website design and has an impressive resume with years of experience.

As he was conversing with my class, he said one phrase that really stuck out to me: You can do what you love, or you can love what you do.

While these statements seem practically identical to one another, I believe there is simply a subtle distinction between these two ideas.

On one hand, you can do what you love. This is applicable to work, school, being a student athlete, and pretty much anything else. Most people do strive to work in a field they love. And most student athletes are playing their sport because that is what they love.

On the other hand, you can love what you do. I view this as more of a choice. You can choose to love what you are doing. People have the choice to love their job, major, or sport.

While it is easy to love the competition of your sport, it is not always easy to love the different aspects that the sport entails. It is not easy to love waking up before 6 a.m. to go run sprints at the track. It’s not easy to love lifting weights until you are too sore to walk properly. However, this is all a part of the sport. Loving those things is how to love what you do.

Another statement this speaker expressed was, “you have to feel good about the work you do.” This translates over to loving what you do, whether it is school, athletics, or your job. If you work your hardest and love your work, then you will be satisfied with the results you produce.

Laundry: The Never Ending Cycle

Laundry. It is one of the biggest tasks that any college student faces. Between the time commitments of class, homework, and extra curricular activities, it’s often hard to find time to settle down and actually do the laundry you’ve procrastinated for the last three weeks.

Now take this scenario and add it to practice times and having multiple changes of clothes for every day and it tends to become a bit of a nightmare.

Here are a few tips for keeping up on your laundry before it takes over your life.

Tip 1: Do not go Over a Week Without Laundry

No matter how much you don’t want to do laundry, never let it build up for over a week. It is tempting, but you will end up regretting it in the long run. Slowly but surely you will begin to run out of essential clothing items that will make you wish you had stuck with your laundry day. Once you get past a week, it is only a matter of time before clothes slowly but surely take over your entire room.

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Tip 2: Do not Procrastinate Folding the Clean Laundry

Once your laundry is out of the dryer, fold it right away! While this has the potential to be a painful task, it will be even more painful if you have to constantly differentiate between what is the clean laundry and what has yet to go in the washer. It will pay off in the long run and you won’t have to spend time searching for that piece of clothing that has somehow disappeared among the mountains of clothes.

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Tip 3: Do not have the same Laundry Day as your Roommates

If you share an apartment or a house with several roommates, you probably already know the importance of making sure you are not all trying to do laundry on the same day. This only has the potential to end in disaster. And if you have to fight for the use of washers in a dorm building, then you can only hope that luck will come your way.

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Laundry is hard. It builds up at a seemingly impossible pace. However, if you procrastinate this task you will find yourself regretting it later on down the road. So there is only one solution: just do your laundry.

The Importance of Planning

Last week, a guest speaker by the name of Ryan Faricelli lectured in one of my classes about the topic of crisis communication. During his lecture, Ryan discussed several steps that are crucial when dealing with crisis communication. While there were several steps that went into dealing with a crisis, there was one step in particular that really stood out to me.

The first thing that you should do when addressing a crisis, is that you should plan for the crisis before it even happens. While collegiate athletics are in no way a crisis, this first planning step is similar to how athletes should look at their athletic competitions.

Step One

There are so many different things that go into preparing for a match, game, or competition. First of all, athletes must fuel their body by consuming proper food and nutrition. While food consumption itself does not seem like it directly relates to how you perform, it is so crucial in preparing yourself for a competition.

Step Two

Secondly, there is training and conditioning. During tennis preseason, the men and women’s tennis teams did two weeks of conditioning before we even stepped foot on a tennis court. This type of training is invaluable when preparing for a season of competing. It prepares an athlete both physically and mentally before they go to compete in their sport.

Step Three

Last of all, there is actual practice. No matter what sport an athlete plays, everyone spends hours on the court or field preparing for a competition. You dedicate hours drilling to perfect specific skills and even more hours on playing practice games in order to be as prepared as possible for the actual competition.

All of these three steps add up to one thing: preparation. Just like a communications coordinator should plan for a crisis before it even happens, athletes should put in hours and hours of preparation before they go to compete in an actual match.

Most athletes would agree that competition is what makes their sport worth playing. However, the actual competition time is typically minuscule compared to the time that is put into training and preparation. This means that in order to see the results, you must participate in the not so glorious steps that it takes to get there. Therefore, whether it is in athletics, communications, or life, taking the time to prepare almost always shows the most rewards when looking at the long term.

Missing Class: An Unexpected Hassle

When you are a student athlete, there are always some things that you have to miss out on. Often these things are spending time with friends, sleep, or even just the time to lie down, relax, and watch a movie. But there is also one more thing you have to miss: classes.

Between the multitude of home matches and the plenty of long bus trips, athletes miss a lot of classes while in season. Luckily, classes missed due to matches are excused by professors. However, these excused absences do not excuse all of the information that is covered or the homework that is due. This unfortunate reality results in a few phases that an athlete goes through while having to miss a few classes.

Phase One: Exhilaration

The first feeling you have when finding out you get to miss classes is excitement. What is better than actually being allowed to miss classes? Instead of being stuck in class all day, you can be out on the court or having fun in the bus with your teammates. However, it doesn’t always stay this way.

Phase Two: Worry

A the day goes on, the worry begins to set in. Instead of being excited about the classes you’re missing, you’re starting to feel worried about the material that you are not learning from your professor. If you’re on a weekend trip and missing a few days of classes, it can be really hard miss so much information if you have a test right around the corner

Phase Three: Panic (at least a little bit)

At some point after missing classes, you begin to feel at lease some level of panic. Whether this is because you have a test over 3 lectures you missed, you have a paper due at midnight that day, or you just don’t have a friend in the class to give you notes, it can be a very stressful time.

Even with all of the stress that comes with missing classes, in the end it all somehow miraculously works out. Most professors are understanding and are willing to help you out if there is some information you are missing. In most classes you can find someone who takes pretty amazing notes that can help fill you in. Sometimes professors will even let you make up assignments or exams at a later date. All in all, missing classes is an unavoidable hassle, but the blow can be softened with using all the resources available to keep up with both information and homework.

Service: A Unique Part of Athletics

This past week in my social media class, we had a guest speaker by the name of Sarah Jennings, who is a co-anchor of Good Morning Chattanooga. While she spoke a lot about her job of being a co-anchor, another topic that she spent a great time discussing was a segment of the news titled “Pay it Forward”. In this segment, she and her news team find a deserving person and monetarily gift them in order to “pay it forward” and give back to those who would be blessed by the money.

This subject caused me to think of the service opportunities that students are presented with at Lee University. In addition to the normal service opportunities that all students have available to them, athletic teams, including the men’s and women’s tennis teams, have 10 hours of service they complete each semester.

These service opportunities, although they are not directly tennis related, are one of my favorite parts of student athletic life. Several of the service opportunities have included serving Thanksgiving dinner to those living in a nursing home, volunteering at the Habitat for Humanity store, and participating at Lee University’s Crossover. All of these projects are very different, but they all have allowed us to serve people from every walk of life.

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These service hours allow the team to serve people of the community while also serving as team bonding time. It allows the team to grow closer together while engaging in activities that benefit the community.

Service is an important part of athletics at Lee. It allows each player to grow individually and together as a team. Because of this, I am thankful for the opportunity to complete these service projects each semester. At the end of the day, service is an invaluable part of student athletics and truly contributes to what Lee University athletics strives to represent with their athletes.

The Short Term Dream

What is the one thought that is on almost every student’s mind almost every day? You guessed it: sleep. Being an athlete on the collegiate level causes me to put sleep as one of my very top priorities. However, after dedicating 30+ hours a week to athletics, 16 hours to classes, and who knows how many hours to homework and eating, it can be hard to fit sleep into your busy schedule.

After hearing Eric Wilbanks speak in class last week regarding life dreams, I began thinking about not only my long term dreams but also my short term dreams. After giving it some thought, I arrived at my number one short term dream: sleep.

I think if you asked any student athlete their answer would probably be pretty similar.  Between the never ending cycle of classes, practice, conditioning, weights, and athletic meetings, there seems to be next to no time to fit in homework, or most importantly, sleep.

I feel like most college students have seen a picture of the pyramid that offers good grades, a social life, and sleep and then instructs you to choose two of the three.  When you add athletics into that mixture, it becomes just a little bit more difficult.

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Somehow, you still find time to fit in sleep into your busy schedule.  Whether it is a nap on the bus ride back from a tournament or deciding to turn in early on the weekend, it is difficult yet possible to catch some extra sleep (even if that means your teammates will video your reaction when they wake you up).

Even with the strain of a busy student athlete life, the fellow athletes I know would not trade this experience for anything.  When you become a student athlete, you have to be incredibly dedicated to your sport, because if you are not then it is simply not worth it.  However, it becomes worth it when all your hard work pays off and you are able to win those close matches that could have gone either way.  When you finally make it to the championships after years of hard work and dedication.  That is when you finally reap the benefits of putting in hours of work every day.  That is when all of sleep deprivation becomes worth it.